Pakistan’s Nuclear Arm Is Growing Stronger, Should India be Worried?

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By 2020, Pakistan could have up to a whopping 200+ nuclear warhead to arm its missiles. This is not another statement by one of our ministers or politician, but a statement from a leading American think tank specializing in the field of nuclear weapons.

“Though many states are downsizing their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a buildup. Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponized, could produce as many as 200 nuclear devices,” an official quote from the think-tank’s spokesperson. With the rising tensions in the Indian subcontinent, this could have far wider consequences than previously estimated.

In this article let us go through the possible delivery systems Pakistan has at its hand.

LAND BASED SYSTEMS

Pakistan military has in its possession, a wide range of Battlefield Range, Short Range, Medium Range and Cruise missiles.

Battlefield Range Ballistic Missiles (BRBM)

  1. Hatf-I (70km-100km)
  2. Nasr/Hatf-IX (70km)
  3. Hatf -II Abdali (200km)
Nasr missile, Credits to Owners

The BRBMs have low range and are limited in total yield. They are built for quick deployment and as a deterrent against enemy forces inside its own territory and to slow or neutralize enemy advance. The above systems are all capable of nuclear payload but the nuclear payload is limited to less than 1000kg.

Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM)

  1. Hatf-III Ghaznavi (300km)
  2. Hatf-VI Shaheen (750km-900km)

These two forms the essential part of Pakistan’s SRBM’s well suited to strike Indian sites. The Ghaznavi is actually an imported version of the Chinese’s DF-11. Even though Pakistan claims it to be a completely indigenous system, western analysts differ to this.

Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM)

  1. Ghauri-I (1200-1600km)
  2. Ghauri-II (1500km-1800km)
  3. Shaheen-II (1800km-2000km)
  4. Shaheen-III (2500km-3000km)
  5. Ababeel (2000km-2300km)
(from left)Ghaznavi, Shaheen-I, Ghauri-I Credits: SyedNaqvi09(WikimediaCommons)

These missiles make the most part of nuclear deterrent against India. Pakistan’s Shaheen series of missiles almost put the whole of India inside Pakistan’s strike. It is a well-known fact that these were developed with Agni-II and Prithvi missiles kept in mind.

Cruise Missiles

BABUR series- the Babur series of missiles is where Pakistan is one step ahead of India. While India is struggling with the development of Nirbhay cruise missile, Pakistan has already put these missiles into active service. Their terrain hugging capability gives them the ability to remain unseen to radar and provides the essential “element of surprise”. The missile has three variants

  1. BABUR-I (700km)
  2. BABUR-II (750km)
  3. BABUR-III (450km)
A Babur missile being launched from a TEL (Transporter Erected Launcher)

The Babur I and II are in service with Pakistan Army while Babur-III is in service with the Navy. The recent test video released by Pakistan drew flak as defence analysts speculated that the video was doctored.

Air Launched Missiles

Ra’ad or Hatf-VIII with PAF Mirage-III, Credits: mikesonline2011(WikimediaCommons)

Ra’ad / Hatf-VIII (350km) – Ra’ad is Pakistan’s air-launched subsonic missile capable of precision strikes on high-value assets. The missile’s current status is unknown, however, the military has acknowledged the development of a Mark II version but details are still under covers.

AIR BASED DELIVERY SYSTEMS

PAF F-16C during take-off

PAF’s air-based delivery systems include few aircraft which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The Chinese-Pak collab JF-17 Thunder, French Mirage-III and the US made F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Of all the aircrafts the most capable air-frame is that of F-16’s. The US gave Pakistan the permission to modify the Falcons to carry a nuclear weapon quite long ago( the only other country except the US to have nuclear capable F-16s is Israel). The Falcons form an integral part of PAF’s arsenal and is the lead fighter of PAF’s inventory.

The Mirage-III, even though not publicly aware is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and has launched an advanced version of Ra’ad cruise missile a few years back.

NAVAL DELIVERY SYSTEMS

As of now, the only nuclear-capable asset with the Pakistan Navy is the Babur-III missile which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. However, the range is below 300km and Pakistan navy lacks that kind of ability to evade Indian patrols and come close to Indian territory to have a potent effect.

The Pakistan navy very recently claimed that a submarine-launched version of BABAR-III was successfully carried out. This is bad news for Indian Navy as Pakistan subs could sneak in on Indian ships and strike Indian ships. However, it is still a far-fetched dream as Indian Navy’s submarine hunter P-8I Poseidon aircraft is easily capable of neutralizing any Pakistani movement in the near waters of Indian territory.

After the news of Indian Nuclear submarine INS Arihant broke cover, Pakistan was in a state of a hurry to immediately counter India’s move. They confirmed that works on the submarine will commence shortly but not much is known.

THE INFERENCE

The final conclusion is not so good for Indian as well as the global community. Pakistan pretty much has a bigger nuclear stockpile than India as per many foreign nuclear weapons watchdog reports. They have been in secret increasing their stockpile fearing a stronger India. The delivery systems they have on hand right now is not perfect but still would be able to inflict heavy damage to the populated regions that lie close to the Pakistan border. Indian defence systems are top class to counter any possible strikes but a high altitude interception is still far from perfect.

The threat is not just for the Indian side but also to the global community. Pakistan government’s not-so-secret relations with militant groups could possibly lead to terrorist organizations going nuclear. The majority of the missile programs are helmed by the Kahuta establishment, which we came so close to bombing.

The end note is that Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is increasing at an alarming rate. With further development of an effective delivery systems Pakistan could pose a huge threat. Summing up China’s growing closeness, anything can be possible. India needs to step up and develop defensive systems to counter a possible scenario in the future.